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July 31, 2008

Tides of seasons have turned on quieter moments and games--games that, even with the advantage of hindsight, seem inconspicuous.  Thursday night's game, however, was loud.  In meaning, in decibels, in act and in was loud.

A 4-0 deficit.  A three-run Justin Morneau home run.  A blown call by the third base umpire.  A cap being kicked 30 feet into the air.  A crowd unified behind its team.  A Joe Mauer RBI single, a second three-run bomb...and zero point five.  If you missed this game, I feel sorry for you.

For all intents and purposes it seemed the game was well under White Sox control.  Blanking the Twins and hovering on a four-run lead, John Danks had allowed four hits and a walk going into the bottom of the fifth inning.  But a silent crowd awoke when Morneau launched a 1-1 fastball over the baggie, scoring both Mauer and Denard Span.  The game, as they say, was afoot.

Hell didn't break loose until the bottom of the seventh.  Span led off the inning, and after squaring to bunt on a 1-1 count was hit by the baseball just under his left knee.  Inexplicably, third base umpire Marty Foster over-ruled the HBP, saying that Span had went around on the bunt far enough to constitute a swing.  It doesn't justify what ensued, but that was a horrible call by Foster.

Ron Gardenhire lumbered onto the field to argue, proceeded to lose his temper and, as we've become accustomed to seeing, was ejected.  On his way out, he removed his cap and punted it--literally, he punted it--into the air.  At this point the crowd, already in a stir, started raining down a chorus of boo's and insults upon the umpires in a show of fan solidarity.  Then, things got out of control...hats, a baseball, garbage were thrown onto the field.  Not only was it so bad, and so pathetic, that Ozzie Guillen had to pull his players from the field, but the Public Address had to warn fans that the Twins could forfeit the game if their antics continued.  Morneau's response was tempered, but the audience reaction clearly had an impact on the players:

"I think it got the crowd into it a little bit more," Morneau said. "They were pretty fired up. You don't want to see people throwing stuff on the field, it almost cost us the game. It was good that it stopped. But everyone was on their feet yelling and cheering. It kind of ignited us."

After the fracas died down and the game was back underway, justice was served when Span coaxed a walk the old fashioned (and less painful) way.  After he advanced on a wild pitch, Mauer took a Matt Thornton fastball (who throws Joe Mauer five straight fastballs?) and drove it up the middle.  It bounced off Orlando Cabrera's glove into center field, and Span scored.

The crowd went wild.

Morneau hit into a force out before Delmon Young was plunked by Octavio Dotel.  Then came Jason Kubel, who sent the Metrodome crowd into an absolute frenzy.  If it wasn't loud enough for you after the tying run scored, this was guaranteed to blow out your eardrums.  Kubel's 14th home run of the season was pulled, shot over the right field fence for a three-run blast.  The Twins had scored seven unanswered runs, and suddenly it didn't matter that Foster blew his call, or that the Twins were in second place or that the front office didn't make a big splash at the deadline--this was the Minnesota Twins, and they weren't going to be denied.

I'd like to think that something shifted on Thursday night.  But with things like this you can never be too sure.  What you can be sure of is that the Twins are hot on the tail of the Chicago White Sox, and there's plenty of baseball yet to be played this summer.  And after a game like that, I'm much more excited to see how it unfolds.